This photo needs editing.
Difficulty IV-V(V+)
Length 4 Miles
Flow Range 250 - 1000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 35 minutes ago 117 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 09/17/2018 1:09 pm

River Description

The West Fork of the Pigeon offers several miles of steep class IV and V creeking with clear tanic water and a mix of great boulder and bedrock rapids. A significant step down in difficulty from the Big East Fork, but the West Fork still offers some big complex rapids, all of which can be reasonably portaged. 

The first mile or so is class IV-V rock bouncing depending on flow. The river picks up a cleaner class IV-V character below Detention Center and continues with that character until the last mile where it turns into class III boogie. One rapid is typically portaged. This is a good one to follow a local down!  

The put in is a nondescript pull-out along 215 a ways downstream of the Gargen of the Gods bridge (where 215 crosses the West Fork with the upstream view of a waterfall), and requires a short hike down into the gorge. The takeout is roadside at the confluence with the Middle Fork.  

Chris Bell's Asheville Area Boating Beta Page probably has the best info on the run. See also Leland Davis's NC Rivers and Creeks. Here is a video of most of the run: 


West Fork Pigeon from American Whitewater on Vimeo.

Rapid Descriptions


Class - Mile - 0

Detention Center

Class - Mile - 0.75
Scout on left. Run right to left, the bottom drop is a confusing hole that will detain. The next drop down has an undercut on left.

Haywood County Jail

Class - Mile - 2.2
Waterfall coming in on the left just before this three stager. Complete with a tricky notch center drop.


Class - Mile - 2.3
An old growth long embedded into the rapid makes for one mean sieve. Waterfall coming in on right, portage left. The rapid below this has a stout hole.

Take Out

Class - Mile - 4
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Confluence of Middle Prong and West Fork of the Pigeon.


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Alex Harvey
1 year ago

Ran this gem on 2/24/19. Level at the USGS 03455500 W F PIGEON R ABOVE LAKE LOGAN NR HAZELWOOD, NC gage was 900 to 600 cfs, dropping while we were on the run. We felt that this was a good first time level, but it could use a tad more water. Less water would be undesirable. Run is 3 miles, drops a tad over 750 so 250 feet per mile. Haywood County is the highlight, a big un.

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John Pilson
15 years ago

Just for clarity's sake, this strainer mentioned in the post BELOW is a large old growth tree log, nearly river-wide, and has been there for years. Mandatory portage. According to "southeastcreekin" on BT, "Be careful it's blind and looks like any other drop on the river -- but paddling over that horizon line would be almost sure death!!! If you are unfamiliar with the run...scout everything that is blind until you get past it..its not worth taking a chance with this one." ....(actually, I've paraphrased his quote slightly to make it clearer. JP)

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17 years ago

Another river hazard...W. Fork Pigeon in N.C. riverwide death sieve
Forum: BoaterTalk
Date: Mar 20, 2003 02:11 GMT

It's been mentioned on BT previously, but it's worth mentioning again. On the run putting in right below the Garden of the Gods madness to the place where the road runs right next to the river for the first time(the obvious takeout), it's about 2/3 of the way down. It's not obvious at all, and is apparently a relatively new feature. Be careful.

Gage Descriptions

From boatingbeta

minimum = 280, medium = 400 - 800, too high = 1000.


Directions Description

Putin- .3 miles below the Garden of the Gods bridge on 215.

Takeout- drive till you reach the confluence of Middle Prong and the West Fork.

No Accident Reports




article main photo

A Close Look at Cheoah River Fatalities

Charlie Walbridge

The recent death of Chris Clark at Python Rapid on North Carolina's Cheoah River is the third at this site in the last six years. In each case, the person who died was an expert paddler and their paddling partners did not see exactly what happened. Let's take a close look at the Cheoah below Bear Creek Falls and develop strategies for future runs. The river here is very fast and continuous. After a fast lead-in (Chaos), the river drops over Bear Creek Falls, a 12' drop. Below, most of the flow pushes toward the river right channel (Python). Ferrying over to the easier river left channel (the West Prong) requires careful boat control. Python itself contains several nasty holes and sieves, with a bad hole blocked by a boulder at the bottom. There is a good route through it, but paddlers need to plan their route carefully. Scouting is a good idea for first timers, although catching eddies and getting out is not  going to be easy. Groups need to stay together.. The rapid is tough enough that you can't watch your buddy all the time, but you can be ready to help if needed. Click through for links to the accident reports, photos, and comments from expert Cheoah River paddlers. (Photo above by Boyd Ruppelt)


Kevin Colburn


Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1210350 09/17/18 Kevin Colburn name
1210348 09/17/18 Kevin Colburn better description
1193229 01/09/09 n/a n/a
1210349 09/17/18 Kevin Colburn video